STA, 27 November 2021 - The government has made a few changes to Covid restrictions, including detailing rules for open-air Christmas fairs, which will have to be fenced off with separate entrances and exits.
The changed regulation, adopted by the government late on Friday, also provides that food and drinks at open-air stalls can be served provided that the largest number of customers allowed on the premises on the same time is clearly marked at the entrance.
Other provisions in that section of the regulation remain unchanged, which means that existing restrictions on the number of customers as well as on their being required to meet the reconvalescent-vaccinated-tested (PCT) rule still apply.
The changes come after Christmas fairs in some cities, including Ljubljana and Maribor, have already opened. While the area around the fair in Maribor is already fenced, Ljubljana will need to follow suit as well as the new measure applies from today.
Meanwhile, the PCT rule will no longer be required for customers accepting mail and package deliveries, except at post offices. The couriers and postal carriers will still need to meet the PCT requirement.
Other changes pertain to self-testing of school children and students, including one saying that the test counts as meeting the PCT rule in collective exercise of religious freedom.
Music school has been added to extra-curricular activities.
Self-testing at home has also been imposed for children who are placed in educational institutions because on the unsuitable conditions in their home environment.
The right to free screening with rapid-antigen tests is being limited to persons with temporary or permanent residence in Slovenia, those employed with employers based in Slovenia and diplomatic representatives to the country.
STA, 27 November 2021 - Travellers arriving in Slovenia from areas with the new coronavirus variant that the WHO has declared to be of concern face mandatory quarantine on arriving in Slovenia starting from Saturday under a decision taken by the government last night. Entry is banned to foreigners without a residence permit in Slovenia arriving from those areas.
The list of areas and countries with the new variant B.1.1.529, named Omicron by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is being published by the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ). Those are currently South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
Under the new government regulation, a 10-day quarantine will be imposed on arrivals residing in those countries or areas or visiting those countries or areas in the past 14 days before entering Slovenia.
The quarantine cannot be ended early and on the 11th day the quarantined persons need to take a PCR test. If the test is positive the same protocol applies as to all other persons who have tested positive.
Those who had been to the areas identified with high risk for the new variant in the 14 days before the new regulation came into force need to report by dialling the number 113. They will then be ordered to quarantine at home for 10 days.
According to the NIJZ, the new variant, first detected in South Africa and thought to be more infectious than those so far known, has not yet been detected in Slovenia.
STA, 26 November 2021- Due to a new Covid-19 variant detected in South Africa, the Slovenian Foreign Ministry advises Slovenians who are currently in South Africa to return home as soon as possible and monitor the situation, as increasingly many countries are introducing restrictions for passengers arriving from the area.
Passengers planning a trip to countries where the new B.1.1.529 variant of the virus has been detected are advised to postpone or cancel non-essential trips.
The Slovenian presidency of the Council of the EU called a meeting of the EU crisis response mechanism for this afternoon to agree on a joint response of members states to the new virus strain, the ministry said.
The situation with the new variant is being monitored, it added.
Some EU countries have already cancelled flights from the south of Africa because of the new strain and introduced additional measures for passengers entering the EU. Some have already banned entry to their country from the area for non-EU citizens and introduced an obligatory PCR test and a quarantine for their citizens.
STA, 26 November 2021 - Holiday season is starting in Slovenian towns as hundreds of thousands of lights will be lit and Christmas fairs launched in major towns on Friday and Saturday. However, due to the epidemiological situation no mass events will be held on the occasion.
Christmas lights will be switched on in Ljubljana and Maribor today, and just like last year the exact time has not be announced to avoid crowd.
In the capital, as many as 50 kilometres of lights will be switched on as part of a holiday decoration designed by Urban Modic, this year celebrating the importance of community and harmony.
The Christmas market is also opening tonight, and will this year expand to the Stritarjeva Street, leading up to the Town Hall.
As customary, a straw nativity scene will be on display on the Ljubljanica riverbank, the Zvezda Park will be adorned with lanterns made by primary school pupils, and citizens and visitors will decorate 79 green trees on four streets in the city centre.
Five concerts are planned in December but it is not clear yet how they will be carried out. Mayor Zoran Janković proposes visitors to be either reconvalescent or vaccinated, but he still needs a green light from the National Institute of Public Health for the move.
In Slovenia's second largest city, Maribor, the holiday magic will culminate in the Main Square and the Leon Štukelj Square. The Main Square will this year feature a festive merry-go-round, just like the one that was featured in a holiday commercial recently shot in the city centre.
Light sculptures called Lumina will greet visitors in city streets and squares, and urban forest photo points will be set up around the city.
Elf City will open on Friday as well, offering events and workshops throughout December. Father Frost will ride around the city in his carriage between 14 and 21 December.
The festive season in the coastal town of Izola will also start on Friday, while in Koper Christmas lights will be switched on on Saturday. In both towns open-air ice skating rinks will open and a number of events are planned for December.
Other towns around Slovenia will slip into the holiday mood this weekend or the next, with the Mozirski Gaj park in Mozirje featuring a record 1,7 million Christmas lights this year.
In Nova Gorica, the lights will be turned on next Friday. The town will organise a book fair, while visitors will be able to produce electricity for lighting up Christmas trees by riding a bike.
Murska Sobota in the north-east has cancelled all festive events because of the epidemic but it will still turn on almost 60,000 lights on the eve of St Nicolas Day.
STA, 11 November 2021 - All passengers over the age of 12 will have to produce proof of vaccination, reconvalescence or testing on entry to Slovenia as of 15 November, the government decided on Thursday. The age limit has been 15 so far and the change brings it in line with the overall Covid pass mandate requirements in the country.
The government decree also specifies that self-testing is not sufficient proof to enter Slovenia. Passengers will need an official rapid test done no more than 48 hours before entry, or a PCR test done within 72 hours before entry.
STA, 3 November 2021 - The upgrade of a 26-kilometre railway section between Zidani Most and Celje in eastern Slovenia was declared completed at a ceremony on Wednesday which heard the project cost EUR 230 million, which is about EUR 50 million less that the initial cost estimate.
Addressing the ceremony in Celje, Aleš Mihelič, a state secretary at the Infrastructure Ministry, said the investment tackled one of the weak points on the national rail network that had not been able to support heavy and long train compositions.
"The upgrade has increased the throughput, shortened travel times and made railway transport more comfortable and, above all, safer," the official said.
As a result, the capacity of what this section of the main railway between the Zidani Most junction and the Šentilj crossing with Austria has increased from 328 to 354 trains per day.
The project, for which Slovenia obtained EUR 90 million in EU funds, also involved modernisation of related infrastructure, including bridges, grade-separated crossings, and renovation of railway stations in Celje, Laško and Rimske Toplice.
Mihelič also noted the EUR 90 million EU-subsidised project underway to upgrade the Pragersko rail junction, one of the main rail hubs in the country.
He said the government was intent on investing a great deal of attention and money to make the railways more competitive with the motorway and road network.
As soon as the core rail network is modernised up to the standard seen in advanced countries, the government is also planning to focus on regional railways and new competitive rail links.
The Infrastructure Ministry has been working on a "visionary and ambitious" plan of investment into rail infrastructure for the next 30 years, which Mihelič indicated would cost about EUR 12 billion. Half a million euro has been ringfenced for the purpose in each of the budgets for the next two years.
STA, 3 November 2021 - The increasing demand for flights between Ljubljana and Belgrade has prompted Air Serbia to expand the number of flights by two to nine a week as of 14 November, the Ex-Yu Aviation portal has announced.
Fraport Slovenija, the operator of the Ljubljana airport, said that 13 airlines offered 14 direct air links to 12 countries around the world in the winter season, which started last weekend and which will last until 26 March 2022.
As of 14 November, Air Serbia, the flag carrier of Serbia, will add additional flights on Fridays and Sundays to the existing schedule of one flight from Ljubljana to Belgrade a day.
Brussels Airlines, which operates four flights a week from the Ljubljana airport, will switch to six flights a week in December, in addition to two flights a week to the Charleroi airport operated by the budget carrier Wizz Air.
Flydubai flies three times a week to Dubai, Turkish Airlines five times a week to Istanbul, and EasyJet four times a week to London Gatwick. As of mid-December, Wizz Air will operate flights from Ljubljana to London Luton three times a week.
Currently, the largest number of flights from the Ljubljana airport in a week is operated by Lufthansa, which flies to Frankfurt two times a day.
Aeroflot flies to Moscow three times a week, Air France offers eleven flights a week to Paris, Air Montenegro flies twice a week to Podgorica, LOT Polish Airlines six times a week to Warsaw, and Swiss Air Lines four times a week to Zürich.
For a long time now things have been bad, and strange at best, for travel, tourism and hospitality in Slovenia and beyond. Back before the masks there were big plans for 2021, with the country set to enjoy the spotlight of the title European Region of Gastronomy for the year, along with the wider attention that goes along the 6th month presidency of the EU Council. But we do at least seem closer to the end than the beginning, and fun times without restrictions could be back again, with impromptu trips, visits and activities a natural part of life as the rules fall away or are simply ignored.
Photo: JL Flanner
Which is a roundabout way of saying we don’t want to jinx things by saying Ljubljana’s baaaack or get all overheated, just that the good folk at Ljubljana Tourism are back with another “November Gourmet Ljubljana”, bringing more life to a traditionally quiet time of year and easing the city into the month-long, annual attraction that’s December. The project is a joint campaign of hospitality service providers, hotels, food producers, wine makers, brewers, distillers and public institutions.
So there’s a full month of activities and events, from the simple turn up and enjoy good food and drink to the more hands-on workshops. Together the varied program presents not only Ljubljana as the natural showcase for the best of all the varied regions of Slovenia have to offer, but also the more local delights specific to the city and it’s surroundings, as well as it’s role as a hub, attractor and connector with the broader region, with guests from around Europe.
Some of the speakers - see the details here
There are seminars and workshops, tasting events, themed meals and five-day cooking courses. There’s a series on meat and a class on confectionary, how make mini sweets and sweet snacks. There are also gin, beer and wine events, with the focus of the latter being Martinovanje on 13 November, the national coming out party for new wines and a great way to spend a day buzzed, culturally enriched and fortified by nibbles and sips in the company of others. See it all and make plans at the website..
Martinovanje some years ago
Rounding out the first week is the latest edition of the European Food Symposium. Originally scheduled for March but postponed for obvious reasons, it’s being held from 6-8 November and will bring an international collection of speakers and practitioners to the city. There’s a lot going on, including a Gourmet Ljubljana Crawl and Adventure Dinner. You can learn about the symposium and its exclusive events at the official website.
Luka Košir in the kitchen, making the dish at the top of this story. Photo: Marko Delbello Ocepek
Whether your interest in food and drink is limited to grabbing a sandwich while sipping a beer or talking to a grocer about the terroir of their carrots, you’ll find something to make you happy during the month of delights that starts today. What’s more, your venue for such pleasures will be the always charming, easy to navigate and difficult to spend a fortune in Ljubljana.
STA, 28 October 2021 - Slovenia has placed fifth on Lonely Planet's list of top 10 countries to visit in 2022 as the travel brand highlights the country's diverse gastronomy and numerous possibilities of active experiences.
Apart from Norway, Slovenia is the only European country to have made it to the annual round-up of must-visit countries worldwide, which is topped by the Cook Islands.
The 17th edition of the Best in Travel collection, which recommends top ten countries, cities and regions, has placed a special focus on sustainability. Its cover boasts a photo of the Slovenian coastal town Piran.
Slovenia is described as a green destination as its sustainable policy and natural riches are put front and centre.
"Slovenia is a world leader in being literally and figuratively 'green' with responsible travel being part of the Slovenia way of life for decades," says Lonely Planet, noting the country gives priority to quality before quantity and local communities before consumerism.
Slovenia also remains innovative, having provided a number of new culinary treats and cycling experiences in the past year. Its never-ending efforts to come up with sustainable tourism strategies have placed Slovenia so high on this year's list of hottest destinations and put the country on the cover of the latest Best in Travel, the travel guidebook publisher adds.
STA, 22 October 2021 - The Wine Train, a new tourism project aiming to promote wines and local cuisine in the south-western Vipava Valley, has been launched. After the first test run at the end of August, the train was officially launched on Friday and is expected to take the first groups on wine-themed trips in December.
Aboard the Wine Train, passengers will be able to observe the landscape while tasting local wines and meet winemakers in the vintage passenger carriages, said the project developers.
"The Vipava Valley Wine Train is a follow-up to our Winestronaut project. We have been looking at the Nova Gorica-Ajdovščina railway line for some time, as it has been completely abandoned in terms of passenger transport," said Matjaž Zgonik, one of the project leaders.
Director of the Burjatik tourist agency Jani Peljhan added that the project would revive the abandoned railway line and thus contribute to responsible and sustainable tourism.
"Sustainable mobility is extremely important nowadays, so I am very pleased that the Wine Train will revive a railway line in this part of the valley," said Darja Kocjan, director of passenger transport at the national railway operator Slovenske Železnice.
The wine-themed tourism trips for groups are expected to start in December, with regular trips coming in the following tourist season. The wine train's route will start in Nova Gorica and conclude in Ajdovščina.
Explorer Camps has been offering screen-free summer adventures for children aged 6-17 for some years now, building, friendships, confidence, skills and memories in Slovenia’s great outdoors (as reported here). But the region has much to offer in the cooler months, and so the natural step was for Steve Hartley, the camp director, to launch a winter program to get kids outside, moving and learning, albeit across the border in Austria. We got in touch and asked some questions…
Winter camps are a big step away from the summer camps you run. Why have you made this move?
We'd prefer to call it a natural step rather than a big one. In all honesty, it's something we've been looking to do for some time and with our summer camps being in a position of being one of the best international camps in Europe, we thought it was time to expand even more.
It really was a natural move as our core values, beliefs and identity are all the same whether it be the winter or summer camps. We see this as a chance of reaching more children from around the world, and helping them discover the power and magic of camps thus inspiring them to make positive differences to the world around them.
However, with that in mind it was still a challenge as when looking at winter camps we have some very specific needs and criteria for a location so it's been quite a process finding that right fit. Over three years we’ve taken.
Three years! Your needs and criteria must be very strict?
I guess you could say strict. Our Explorer families expect and deserve the best, so for winter camps we needed to find something that ticked all the boxes and, being honest, do more than ‘just’ tick the boxes. There needed to be that WOW factor.
If you don’t mind me asking, what were some of these needs and criteria in finding the right location?
Winter is quite a challenging season to work with due to the uncertainty about snow conditions, especially for our Christmas to New Year winter camp. Can we guarantee snow? Especially around Christmas time? This was the real concern from our side as we wanted to be in a place that would not just have snow, but give all of our campers that special Explorer experience in nature. A winter wonderful.
On top of that, Explorer Camps has a very entrenched set of values that we continually aim to grow within our Explorer family. It was important finding a location and hotel that had a synergy with our ethos which was surprisingly difficult to discover. A true community feel is essential to our campers as they become more comfortable in their surroundings and ultimately become happier with themselves.
Also, very important to our vision was to have accommodation that was away from touristic areas, so we have privacy to ensure the health and safety of our campers and also to bring them closer to nature. In this day-and-age we’re always striving to help our campers detox from their screens, so we needed to be at a place that would inspire them through the wildness.
Imagine that you’ve discovered that WOW factor and the best location for your winter camps?
That first time we arrived at Felseralm Hotel in Obertauern, Austria we were completely blow away. It was jaw dropping being honest. Nestled in the middle of a beautiful mountain range, completely surrounded by forests and nature. The best part about the location was that it’s secluded and away from the mass tourism most see at any major ski resort, but at the same time it’s only a 5-minute drive to the slopes.
What surprised you about the Felseralm Hotel?
The three llamas that live on-site! Haha. The kids will love them though.
That to the side, the standard of the rooms and facilities was really unexpected. Having had camps at a youth hotel before, naturally I thought the rooms would be a little outdated and worn down but they were simply stunning. Modern. Spacious. Well-kept. Whole floor just for Explorer Camps.
Then there’re the facilities. Ten-pin bowling. Indoor basketball court. Ping-pong tables. Chill out spaces. Multimedia room. Disco hall. 2 dining rooms. It has it all really. Everything we were looking for but more.
So, Felseralm Hotel ticks all the boxes?
It certainly has all the things we’re looking for … and a lot more!
The fact it’s a family run hotel with a really personal touch also aligns with our values and enables us to create a truly special Explorer community during the winter camps. On camp we work from the heart, as does the hotel which means everything to us. It’s more than just accommodation so we can ski at Obertauern. It needs to be a home away from home. And we honestly feel it will be.
We’ve talked a lot about the hotel, what about Obertauern and the ski slopes there?
They call it a ‘snow bowl’ which is where people are surrounded by snow and ski slopes, and as a result the skiing conditions are much better. They have perfect snow from November to May, and over 1oo kilometres of slopes of all different levels. Plus, there’s a really cool Snow Park for tricks etc.
What really attracted us to this location was the fact Obertauern, on top of the snow quality being so high, is that it has such a variety of slopes and difficulties meaning we can target all levels of skiers. From beginners to advanced.
How do you arrange the skiing when you have so many levels?
Our aim at Explorer Winter Camps is to ensure everybody enjoys their time on the snow. We maintain extremely high staff: camper ratios (minimum 1: 4) which gives us the flexibility to allow all campers to join groups appropriate for their level and discipline.
Beginner groups have a dedicated Austrian instructor from CSA ski school for 4.5 hours a day to teach them the skills they need to enjoy the wider ski area. A snow-savvy Explorer counsellor accompanies the groups throughout their lessons to encourage and guide campers on their journey.
When skiers and snowboarders get to a level that they can safely use all types of lifts, and confidently navigate blue slopes, they then join our guided groups led by experienced Explorer staff, who know the best places in resort for their level. Guided groups are also offered some hours of instruction with the ski school at different points through the week in order to give campers an opportunity to further develop technically.
You’re hiring Austrian instructors plus your own? Is there a need for that many staff?
As I previously mentioned, quality before quantity. Safety has always been our focus at summer camps, the slopes of Obertauern present different challenges which we need to be prepared for which is why we’re combining local expertise with our own.
While it’s true traditional ski schools wouldn’t be offering such intense supervision, it’s important to our values that we are there with our campers throughout the whole day. They need to feel that Explorer spirit 24/7.
Taking all of this into account, how do the winter and summer camps really differ?
As I mentioned, both our winter and summer camps share the same core values and beliefs where we focus on our campers’ personal growth by surrounding them in a warm, positive and caring environment. This is what makes these camps so unique and attractive to our Explorer families.
Of course, our winter and summer camps have different activities in quite different seasons however throughout it all we rely heavily upon our core values to drive our entire community to reach greater heights.
So, when our children step onto either a winter or summer camp they know what kind of environment they can expect, and the expectations that are set out. Every day we’ve got a very strong focus on growing these values as we know how much children can truly benefit from the right camp experience which ultimately leads to a greater sense of self-worth, self-belief, independence, and confidence. Which all parents want for their children, don’t you think?
So, you think that these values and personal growth is the most attractive thing about the winter camps this year?
Well, no doubt it’s the most attractive thing about Explorer Camps judging by campers’ and parents’
Clearly, the amazing ski slopes of Obertauern catch the eye and make it something really interesting for all of our families. However, the positive connections they make during camp and the life-long memories they create will be what truly shapes their lives and ultimately the biggest attraction of the camps.
Sounds like hard work putting all of that together. Activities. Location. Life Skills. Personal Approach.
Yes, but with the right team it makes things much easier. I think Explorer Camps has been truly lucky to have created an amazing foundation of experienced staff all with a very similar outlook on life, and a clear goal of helping our campers to enjoy winter and summer while ultimately becoming better young people themselves.
In saying this, we believe in continual growth so we do have online training for our staff covering a number of different areas. And, in addition to this, we also do live trainings to further boost their skills whether it be in supervision, communicating with campers, homesickness. Training is a very important part of our camps so there is a bit of work involved, but it’s worth it in the end.
Have you bitten off more than you can chew? Balancing winter and summer camps. Training.
Ha, I like a challenge and it’s really exciting starting this new project as it’s something that I truly believe in. It really is.
But, thankfully Catherine and Tim Earles, who are also expats here in Slovenia, have both stepped into co-director roles for our winter camps which has been a complete blessing. Adding them to our team really boosts all of our performances and ensures our campers will have an even better and personal experience. We’re very lucky to have them!
So, with all of the groundwork clearly been done … what excites you most about this winter?
Our firm belief is that camps have this special power and magic that can transform children. We see it all the time during the summer so we’re most excited about being able to bring these special moments to winter also!
It’s an exciting step … natural step for these camps, and we can’t wait to open our doors to even more youngsters from around the world.A video showing the summer camps